Ontario Conservatives prepare to seek power

Wed Jun 1, 2011 4:54pm EDT
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By Claire Sibonney

TORONTO (Reuters) - The Conservative opposition in Canada's most populous province is gearing up for the October election, promising to cut taxes, pay more on health and education, and still wipe out a budget gap.

The Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, in opposition since 2004, wants to scrap a C$7 billion green energy plan fund and eliminate subsidies for small-scale production of wind and solar power.

It says it will lower taxes for businesses and for middle-income families, but cut overall spending on provincial programs even as it offers more money for popular initiatives like healthcare and education.

"Surprise new taxes have taken repeated bites out of the family budget, expensive experiments are driving up our hydro bills and private sector job creation has stalled," party leader Tim Hudak told an enthusiastic business audience in Toronto, Canada's financial capital.

"This government has dug itself into a historic budget hole and refuses to relinquish the shovel."

Hudak's Conservatives are about seven points ahead of the ruling Liberals in a recent opinion poll, putting them in a strong position ahead of the election.

Victory would complete a Conservative hat-trick in Toronto, which is also Ontario's capital city.

Toronto last year elected populist Rob Ford as city mayor, and the federal Conservatives picked up seats in the province as they won power in a May 2 federal election, even ousting the former federal Liberal leader from his Toronto riding.   Continued...

<p>Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak's election platform named "changebook" sits on a table before he speaks to the economic community at a club luncheon in Toronto, June 1, 2011. REUTERS/Mark Blinch</p>